Assassin of Gor
Starting page 93
I could see the black disk now, moving swiftly, but not
at great altitude, passing among the night clouds,
under the three moons of Gor.
I, and Cernus and Ho-Tu, and others, stood in the
lonely darkness of a recessed ledge on a high peak in
the Voltai, some pasangs northeast of Ar. The ledge
was attainable only on tarnback. There was no fire, no
light. There were perhaps a dozen of us there.
About an Ahn following the eerie cry we had heard in
the hall Ho-Tu had arisen from the table and gestured
for me to accompany him. I did so, and we climbed a
long spiral staircase until we came to the roof of the
House of Cernus.
|This research is done on the series of books written by John Norman, the comments in italics are mine and my point of view.
Woman of Gor
Though doubtless Ho-Tu was well known to the guards at the tarncot, he nonetheless showed them a small, flat rectangle of glazed
clay, white in color, marked with the sign of the House of Cernus.
On the roof we met Cernus and others. Some were tarnsmen, others members of the House. On the roof there were eight tarns,
beside five of which there were carrying baskets attached to tarn harness.
Cernus had looked at me. "We did not specifically discuss your wages," he remarked.
"It is not necessary," I said, "it is well known the House of Cernus is generous."
Cernus smiled. "I like you, Killer," said he, "for you do not haggle, but you are silent; you keep your own council and then you strike."
I said nothing.
"I am much the same," said Cernus. He nodded his head. "You did well to sit high at the table."
"Who would dispute my place?" I asked.
Cernus laughed. "But not so high as I," he said.
"You are master of the house," I said.
"You will see," said Cernus, "that the house of Cernus is indeed generous, and more generous than you have thought to dream.
You will come with us this night and for the first time you will understand how great indeed is my house. You will this night
understand how wisely you have invested the use of your sword."
"What will you show me?" I asked.
"Serve me well," said Cernus, "and in time I will make you the Ubar of a City."
I looked at him startled.
"Ha!" laughed Cernus, "so even the equanimity of an Assassin can be shaken! Yes, the Ubar of a city, and you may choose the city,
any save Ar, on whose throne I, Cernus, will sit."
I said nothing.
"You think me mad," he said. "Of course. In your place I too should think such. But know that I am not mad."
"I do not believe you mad," I said.
"Good," said Cernus, indicating one of the tarn baskets.
I swung myself into the basket, which I shared with two men-at-arms.
Cernus and Ho-Tu rode together in another basket. The tarn basket may or may not have guidance attachments, permitting the tarn
to be controlled from the basket. If the guidance attachments are in place, then the tarn is seldom saddled, but wears only basket
harness. If the basket is merely carried, and the tarn cannot be controlled from the basket, then the tarn wears the tarn saddle and
is controlled by a tarnsman. The basket of Cernus and my basket both had guidance attachments, similar to those of the common
saddle, a main basket ring corresponding to the main saddle ring, and six leather straps going to the throat-strap rings. The other
three baskets, however, had no control attachments and those birds wore saddles and were guided by tarnsmen. Tarn baskets,
incidentally, in which I had never (page 95) before ridden, are of many different sizes and varieties, depending on the function for
which they are intended. Some, for example, are little more than flat cradles for carrying planking and such; others are long and
cylindrical, lined with verrskin, for transporting beverages and such; most heavy hauling, of course, is done by tharlarion wagon; a
common sort of tarn basket, of the sort in which I found myself, is a general utility basket, flat-bottomed, square-sided, about four
feet deep, four feet wide and five feet long. At a gesture from Cernus the birds took wing, and I felt my basket on its heavy leather
runners slide across the roof for a few feet and then drop sickeningly off the edge of the cylinder, only to be jerked up short by the
ropes, hover for a moment as the tarn fought the weight, and then begin to sail smoothly behind the bird, its adjustments made, its
mighty wings hurling the air contemptuously behind it.
The spires of Ar, depending on the weather, can normally be seen quite clearly from the nearer ranges of the Voltai, or the Red
Mountains, the greatest mountain range of known Gor, superior to both those of Thentis and the Sardar itself. We flew for perhaps
an Ahn and then, following a lead tarnsman, dipped and, one at a time, the others circling, landed on a rocky shelf on the side of a
steep cliff, apparently no different from dozens of other such shelves we had already passed, save that this shelf, due to an
overhang of the
cliff above tended to be somewhat more sheltered than most. Once landed the tarns and baskets were moved back beneath the
overhang, beneath which we took up our post as well. No one talked. We stood there in the night, in the cold, for perhaps better
than two Ahn. Then I heard one of the men-at-arms say, "There!"
The black disk approached, more slowly now, seeming to sense its way. It dropped among the peaks and, moving delicately among
the rocks, neared our shelf.
"It is strange," whispered one of the men-at-arms, "that Priest-Kings must act with such secrecy."
"Do not question the will of Priest-Kings," said another.
I was startled.
About a hundred yards from the shelf the ship stopped,
(page 96) stationary, more than two thousand feet from the ground below.
I saw Ho-Tu looking at the ship, marveling. "I have seen it," he said, "a hundred times and yet, each time, it seems to me more
strange. It is a ship. But it does not float on water. It floats in the sky. How can it be?"
"It is the power of Priest-Kings," whispered one of the men-at-arms.
Cernus now, from beneath his cloak, removed a small, flat box, and with his finger pressed a button on this box. A tiny light on the
box flashed red twice, then green, then red again. There was a moment's pause and then, from the ship, there came an answering
light, repeating the signal, except that its signal terminated with two reds.
The men stirred uneasily.
The ship then began to ease toward the shelf, moving perhaps no more rapidly than a man might walk. Then, clearing the shelf by
no more than six inches, it seemed to rest there, not actually touching the rock. The ship was disklike, as are the ships of
Priest-Kings, but it had observation apertures, which the ships of Priest-Kings lack. It was about thirty feet in diameter, about eight
feet in height. There was no evidence of the discharge of energy.
Cernus looked at me. "To speak of what you see is, of course, death," said he.
A panel in the side of the black ship slid back and a man's head appeared.
I do not know what I expected to see, but I was grealy relieved. My hand was on the hilt of my sword, sweating.
"The trip was uneventful, I trust," said Cernus, putting the signal apparatus back in his robes.
The man, who wore a simple dark tunic and sandals, dropped out to the ground. His hair was dark and clipped short; his face
intelligent, but hard. On his right cheek, over the cheekbone was the Thief brand of the Caste of Thieves of Port Kar, who use the
small brand to identify their members. "Look," said the man to Cernus, leading him about the side of the ship.
There, in the side, was a great smeared wrinkle of erupted metal.
"A patrol ship," said the man.
"You are fortunate," said Cernus.
The man laughed.
"Have you brought the apparatus?" asked Cernus.
"Yes," said the man.
Few of the men on that rocky shelf reacted much to what was going on. I gathered that they had seen this ship, or others like it,
before, but that they had little inkling of the nature of the events that were transpiring. Indeed, I suspected that other than Cernus
there were none who truly understood the nature of the ship and its mission, and perhaps he only incompletely. I myself, from my
conversations with Misk, probably suspected more of its role and purposes than any other on that shelf, with the exception of
"What do you think?" asked Cernus, turning to me, pleased.
"The power of the House of Cernus is great indeed," I said, "greater than I had dreamed."
The man from the ship, seemingly anxious to be on his way, had now returned to the interior of the ship. Inside I could see four or
five others, clad much as he was, all human. They seemed apprehensive, nervous.
Almost immediately the first man, he who wore the tiny Thief's brand, returned to the panel and crouching down, held out a small,
obviously heavy box, to Cernus, who, in spite of the fact that he was the master of the House of Cernus itself, took it in his own
Cernus returned to his carrying basket, holding the small box heavily before him. He motioned for Ho-Tu to enter the basket and the
Master Keeper did so. Then receiving the box from Cernus, he placed it carefully in the basket. Cernus then himself climbed into the
basket. He spoke to one of the men-at-arms. "Unload the cargo," said he. Then, using the one-strap on the basket ring, Cernus
signaled the tarn. The bird stalked out from under the overhang, poised itself on the edge of the shelf, and then, with a leap and a
beating of its wings, entered its element.
I saw the basket containing Cernus and Ho-Tu flying
(page 98) toward Ar. I gathered that the main cargo, whatever it was, had already been unloaded, that it reposed in the small,
heavy box, and that it was now on the way to the House of Cernus. "Hurry!" called the man with the Thief's scar, and those of the
staff of the House, including even the tarnsmen, stood lined before the panel and received various goods which they placed in the
carrying baskets. I alone did not participate in this work. I did, however, observe it carefully. Certain of the boxes which were
unloaded, to my surprise, bore lettering in various languages of Earth. I
recognized English, and French and German, something that was presumably Arabic, and other boxes which were marked with
characters doubtless either Chinese or Japanese. I suspected, however, that the goods in these boxes might not all be those of
Earth. I suspected rather that in some of these boxes at least might be goods from the ships of Others, transported by way of
Earth, in ships to be piloted by men. Some of the goods, however, were surely of Earth. Among them was a high-powered rifle with
telescopic sights. To possess such a weapon, of course, on Gor was a capital offense, it being a violation of the weapon laws of
"What is this?" asked one of the men-at-arms.
"It is a crossbow," said the man with the Thief's scar. "It shoots a tiny lead quarrel." The man looked at it skeptically. "Where is the
bow and cord?" he asked.
"Inside the quarrel," said the man, impatiently. "It is in a powder. A spark hits the quarrel and the powder cries out and flees,
pushing the quarrel before it, down this tube."
"Oh," said the man-at-arms.
The man with the Thief's scar laughed, and turned to accept another box from a man deeper within the "Surely it is a forbidden
weapon," said the man-at-arms.
"Not to Priest-Kings," said the man in the ship.
The man-at-arms shrugged and took the rifle, or crossbow as he thought of it, and surely the stock resembled that of a crossbow,
and placed it in one of the carrying baskets
"Ah," said one of the tarnsmen, seeing the man on the ship hand out the first of several heavy squares of gold. I
(page 99) smiled to myself. This was cargo the men on the shelf could understand. There was a large
quantity of this gold, perhaps forty squares, which were distributed among the four tarn baskets remaining on the ledge. It was, I
assumed, Earth gold. It was undoubtedly such gold which permitted the House of Cernus to gain significant influence in the city,
sponsoring races and games, as well as permitting the house to undersell, when it pleased, other Merchants.
"How many slaves?" asked one of the men-at-arms.
"Ten," said the man with the Thief's scar.
I then watched while ten cylindrical tubes, apparently of transparent plastic, were removed from the ship. Each was marked and
sealed, but in each, at two points, there were valve openings, through which in flight I supposed two tubes might pass, one
perhaps for oxygen and another gas used to sedate the occupant, and one to draw the carbon dioxide from the cylinder. The valves
were now open, permitting a bit of air to enter and leave the cylinders. Each cylinder contained a beautiful girl, unclothed and
unconscious. About the left ankle of each there was locked a steel identification band. They were doubtless girls kidnapped on
Earth, brought to Gor to be slaves.
With a wrench device each of the cylinders was opened and its occupant drawn forth by the hair and placed on the rocky shelf. The
cylinders were then returned to the ship. One of the girls began to stir uneasily, perhaps sensing the difference in temperature and
The man with the Thief's scar again emerged from the ship, this time with a syringe. He injected a tiny bit of serum into each girl,
entering the needle in the girl's back, on the left side between the hip and backbone, passing the needle each time into a small vial
he held in his left hand.
The girl who had been stirring uneasily rolled about once, tossing her head to one side, as though in fever, and then her
movements subsided and she lay quietly, sedated.
"They will not awaken now," said the man with the Thief's scar, "for better than an Ahn."
One of the men-at-arms laughed. "When they do," he said, "they will find themselves in the slave kennels." Several of the others
The man with the Thief's scar then reentered the ship, and the panel slid shut. There had been no bill of lading, or receipts of any
kind, exchanged. I gathered that no such checking, common in legitimate exchanges, was felt desirable or necessary. The lives of
these men, I supposed, was their bond.
The girls had now been placed on their stomachs and two tarnsmen, with short lengths of binding fiber, were fastening the ankles
of each together and binding the wrists of each behind her back. Then, because the baskets in which they were to be transported
did not have covers, the girls were placed in pairs, head to feet. The throat of each in each pair was tied to the ankles of the other.
This is a device used, when transporting slaves in open baskets, to prevent one from struggling to her feet and in flight throwing
over the side of the basket. The precautions, however, considcred that the girls were drugged, seemed to be unnecessary. On the
other hand these men were slavers and not accustomed to take chances with merchandise. I supposed it was possible that a girl
might awaken, in the rushing cold air, and attempt to hurl herself to the ground. Elizabeth, I had learned, who had been shipped
from the House of Clark had been transported in a covered basket, lashed shut. This was more common. There had been two girls
of the long sides in her basket, and one at each end. Their wrists had been tied behind them, a loop running through the heavy
wicker to hold them in place. Their ankles had been tied together at the center of the basket. A further precaution, and an
independent one, was a long strip of leather, looped several times about the throat of each and threaded through the wicker. Even
if a girl should manage somehow, incredibly, because certain important knots are outside the wicker, to free herself, she would still
be held in place by the loops on her throat. Gorean slavers, it might be mentioned, seldom lose prisoners. A girl enslaved on Gor has
little prospect of escape. She is truly slave, and is likely to remain so, unless, as happens upon occasion, she so pleases a master
that he, perhaps against his better judgment, consents to free her. I felt sorry for the girls of Earth. Their life would not be easy.
Elizabeth Cardwell, I reminded myself, was of
(page 101) Earth. Perhaps once, long ago, she had been brought, like these others, to Gor, on the black ship of a slaver.
I turned and observed the black disk, which had now silently lifted itself from the rocky ledge and was moving horizontally away,
vanishing among the peaks of the Voltai.
"We return to the House of Cernus," said a man-at-arms, and I, and the others, entered our baskets or mounted our tarns.
In a moment the tarns left the rocky ledge, and in another moment or two, in the distance, I could see the lights of distant Ar.
Then the Physician looked at Ho-Tu. "It is a good lot," he said.
"It should be," said Ho-Tu, "they have been selected with great care."
I then understood for the first time that it is not just any girl who is picked up by the Gorean slavers, but that the acquisition of each
of these doubtless had been planned with the same diligence and care that is given to a slave raid on Gor itself. They had doubtless
been watched, without their knowledge studied and investigated, their habits noted, their common movements and routines
recorded, for months prior to the strike of the slaver at a predetermined place and time. I supposed the requirements of the slaves
Each of the girls, I suspected, would be vital and much alive. Each of them I knew was beautiful. Each of them I suspected would be
intelligent, for Goreans, as the men of Earth commonly do not, celebrate quickness of mind and alertness in a girl. And now they
were in the kennels.
"Let's look at them," said Ho-Tu, picking up a small metal hand torch with a wick of twisted, tarred straw from the floor and thrusting
it into the drum fire.
I and the Physician, and the guardsman, followed him up the iron ramp to the second level.
A blond girl, wearing the steel band locked on her left ankle, crouched at the barred gate, and extended her hands through. "Meine
Herren!" she cried. The guard, with a heavy stick he carried, struck the bars viciously before her face and she cried out, jerking back
and crouching at the rear of the cage.
"These next two," said Flaminius, indicating two cages separated by a cage from the last, "refuse to eat."
Ho-Tu lifted the torch to first one cage, and then the other. Both girls were Oriental--my guess would have been Japanese.
"Feed this one," said Ho-Tu, pointing to the cage on his left.
The girl was dragged out and her hands were braceleted behind her back. One of the smiths from below was summoned with a
bowl of slave porridge, which he mixed half with water, and stirred well, so that it could be drunk. There are various porridges given
to slaves and they differ. The porridges in the iron pens, however, are as ugly and tasteless a gruel, and deliberately so, as might
be imagined. As the girl knelt the guardsman pulled back her head and held her nose while the smith, with thumb and forefinger,
forced open her jaws and, spilling it a bit on her chin and body, poured a half cup of gruel into her mouth. The girl tried to hold her
breath but when it became necessary for her to breathe she must needs swallow the gruel; twice more the smith did this, and then
the girl, defeated, swallowed the gruel as he poured it into her mouth, half choking on it.
"Put her back in the kennel," said Ho-Tu.
"Will you not remove the bracelets from her?" I asked.
"No," said Ho-Tu, "that way she will not be able to rid herself of the gruel."
The second girl had been watching what had gone on. Ho-Tu, with his foot, kicked her gruel pan toward her, which slid under the
bars of the gate. She lifted it to her lips and began to eat, trembling.
The last girl on the second row might have been Greek. She was quite beautiful. She sat with her chin on her knees, looking at us.
Assassin of Gor, page 125-126
Flaminius laughed. "We explain what has happened to them. They are intelligent, they have imagination, they will have understood
the possibility before, though not considering it seriously, and will, in time, accept the reality."
"How can you explain to them?" I asked. "They do not speak Gorean?"
"There is no girl here," said Plaminius, "for whom there is not at least one member of our staff who can speak their language."
I looked at him, bewildered.
"Surely," said Flaminius, "you do not think we lack men who are familiar with the world from which these slaves have been brought.
We have men of their world in the House and men of our world on their planet."
I said nothing.
"I myself," said Flaminius, "have visited their world and speak one of its languages." Assassin of Gor, page 127-128